'Outlander' Just Gave Us the Most Feminist Moment on Television This Year
If you're not watching Outlander, you might want to start. The Starz drama revolves around a British World War II combat nurse who accidentally travels back in time to 1743 after touching a magic rock (it's much better than it sounds) and finds herself in the midst of a Scottish rebellion.
With its wonderfully nuanced heroine and female-friendly sex scenes (Jezebel rightly called it the "historical smut of [our] dreams"), the show is being hailed as the feminist's Game of Thrones. And it more than lived up to its reputation with its latest episode, when leading lady Claire (Caitriona Balfe) schooled a gruff 18th-century Scotsman about rape culture.
However depressing it may be to think about how much today's victim-blaming culture resembles that of 1700s Scotland, it's still immensely satisfying to see such an explicitly feminist scene on television.
Here's some brief background: Shortly after traveling through time, Claire stumbles upon the dastardly Capt. Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). He promptly tries to rape her, but she escapes and eventually ends up in the hands of the Scottish MacKenzie clan. Later, Colum MacKenzie (Gary Lewis), "Laird" of said clan, interrogates Claire about the ordeal. He doesn't totally believe that she is telling the truth, you see, because Randall "is an officer, a gentleman."
MacKenzie says, "You're saying that a man bearing the King's Commission decided to rape a stray lady traveler he came upon in the woods, for no good reason?"
Claire stares daggers at him for a moment before replying, "Is there ever a good reason for rape, Master MacKenzie?"
MacKenzie makes a face like he swallowed his own beard, and quickly apologizes.
Image Credit: Starz/Mic
This scene is great for a couple of reasons. For one thing, too many people mistakenly assume that rapists look and act a certain way (look no further than the U.K. judge who told a perpetrator earlier this year that he didn't look like a "classic rapist"). It's important to remember that someone's profession, social standing and gender do not preclude their ability to rape. It's equally important to remember that rape is never justified, and it is never the victim's fault.
Entertainment can be notoriously tone-deaf when it comes to thoughtful — or even accurate — depictions of sexual assault and rape. Earlier this year, for example, another popular premium cable fantasy series that you might have heard of caused a ruckus when its director literally refused to acknowledge that he'd inserted a gratuitous rape scene into an episode.
Moments similar to Outlander's have appeared on screen before (such as Olivia Benson's epic "She could run around naked, that doesn't excuse rape" comment on Law & Order: SVU), and we should support them when they do. So long as our culture remains saturated with images that implicitly endorse entitlement to women's bodies, we will need more scenes in which casual comments that normalize rape are called out for exactly what they are: bullshit.
Thank goodness this show got renewed for a second season after only a single episode.
Outlander airs at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.